Harmonizing Results and Relationships

Harmonizing Results

Leaders of any team or organization, be it big or small, are accountable for the results they deliver. Attracting and retaining top talent is vital to making progress here but it isn’t easily accomplished. And while employees want to be fairly compensated for their contributions, money isn’t the only thing that matters to them.  That’s why in today’s marketplace we often hear reference to terms such as employee engagement and employee satisfaction.  Happy employees are productive employees. To be effective, leaders need to take care of accomplishing the mission (getting results) and taking care of the people (building relationships).

A 2009 survey from researcher James Zenger, reported that the definition of a “great leader” varied widely and incorporated a number of attributes. While just 12 percent of respondents cited “strong social skills” as key to making a great leader, and only 14 percent cited “strong results” as essential, when these two attributes were combined, 72 percent of those surveyed agreed that this individual would make a great leader.

This begs the question, What percentage of leaders could be considered among the top performers as measured by their ability to focus on both work goals and the needs of the people?  David Rock, director of the Neuroleadership Institute, along with Management Research Group dove into 10 years of data to find the answer.   Less than 1% of leaders were rated high on both goal focus and social skills!

Why so low?  One element is our organizational environments are built with systems and processes that nudge people to think rationally rather than socially.  As society, we prize progress made on goals achieved and to-do lists checked off.  Social skills are considered soft, and therefore less important. Another aspect is, as humans, we naturally have a preference for either tasks and results, or people and relationships.

The 1% that overcomes these tendencies has figured out a set of tools, started a practice of behaviors, or a created a habitual checklist—in other words, they have acquired the learnable skill of managing themselves.  They keep in check by balancing their task-list with their who-list.

Many of the challenges that leaders face are actually people issues that can be resolved by exercising some social intelligence.  Social skills such as listening at a deeper level, observing emotions in other people and working out what’s really going on with them;  appreciating another person’s perspective; managing interactions effectively; and engaging with others for mutual benefit.

Social skills are the great multiplier.  A leader with strong social skills can leverage the analytical abilities of team members far more efficiently. A leader who knows what her team really wants and cares about will be able to create a better environment than one who is simply focused on the elements of a project.

A positive emotional climate fuels performance.  When people feel good about themselves, they are better able to access problem-solving and creativity, they collaborate more, and they have the inner freedom to focus on the task at hand. Negative environments actually stop the brain from thinking because it goes into freeze mode. Leaders who get results are leading people in a way that people’s brains can follow them.

Recent studies in neuroscience are also revealing the connection between relationship and performance.  In the book “The Power of the Other”, Dr. Henry Cloud outlines the three elements required to produce change and high performance: brain, mind, and relationship.  Our brain is like the hardware of a computer and our mind is like the software. The person we are in relationship with writes code that elicits different results, sometimes good, and sometimes bad.

To harmonize results with relationship, create a culture that CARES:

Connection:  The ability to identify with people and relate to them in such a way that it increases our influence with them.

Authenticity:  As Amy Cuddy says, when we are comfortable being our true selves, we can also be more open with those around us. When we feel safe enough to be authentic, we can bring our whole human selves to work.

Recognition: The focus of celebrations is often on the projects or outcomes, and not the humans that delivered the results. Recognizing the people behind the results is critical, as is celebrating the uniqueness each of us brings that creates a far more cohesive and successful whole.

Empowerment: Give people a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making regarding their specific organizational tasks.

Success: We live in a critical world, and we tend to be most critical of our own self. Fuel the feeling of success with praise when due.

Bottom line is good relationships lead to better results and improved retention.

Jill Poulton